Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Visiting Auschwitz

On Monday July 22nd 2013, my sister and I went to visit the Auschwitz concentration camps.


I had booked us on the Auschwitz & Birkenau Tour with the company called Escape2Poland, as it had received good reviews on Tripadvisor.

They picked us up in a van at our hostel at 8.30 in the morning, before driving the 50 kilometers to the Auschwitz camps, located in the town called Oswiecim.

"Arbeit macht frei"
- "Labor makes (you) free",
or "work sets you free"


Our tour group consisted of approximately 20 people. In the beginning of the tour they handed out a headset and a receiver to everyone, that was connected to the guide's microphone.


In this way you'd be able to hear the guide's voice loud and clear without having to be up in her face all the time.

You could be walking ten meters behind in your own world, and still be listening to the guide explaining, telling stories and giving directions.

Pretty neat.

 Our guide,
who'd been working giving tours around the 
Auschwitz camps for the past 15 years,
explaining about the Zyklon B containers 
used to gas people to death
 One of the gas chambers

Mountains of personal belongings like shoes, hairbrushes and glasses,
and leather suitcases,
neatly marked with names and addresses of the owners
"Be sure to label your luggage with your name and address,
so that you'll be able to find it easily upon arrival".

So much deception,
to prevent resistance


 Execution wall

Inside the prison building to the left,
we were taken deep down into the basement
to see the standing cells:
small claustrophobic cells, where
the prisoner had to enter by crawling through
a small opening.
The cell was constructed as to prevent the prisoner 
from doing anything but standing 
No room for squatting, or sitting, or laying down

And there could be as many as four people
in one cell,
for several days,
people often suffocating to death.

The torture. 
 Pretty comical,
dressing like your
going to a party
- when in Auschwitz

Oh, well.

 After a couple of hours in Auschwitz I
A quick snack before
driving the 3 km to Auschwitz II: Birkenau

The serenity,
blue skies, vast fields, and lush crops and grass
- so surreal to think about all of the awful atrocities
that went on in this area

 At the end of the of railway tracks
inside Birkenau
- where the newly arrived
would be evaluated upon arrival,
and separated into two group:
those who were fit for work, and those who were unfit:
the sick, the elderly, pregnant women and children, who
would be brought to the gas chambers
straight away

 (Klikk på bildet hvis du vil lese hva det står)

 The weather was hot,
and the ground looked just like my dry legs
- but who has the right to complain about anything, 
when in Auschwitz?

 People in the camps were only allowed to
use the latrines twice a day: before and after work

Our guide told us about how the job of those who emptied
the toilets actually had the most 'lucrative' jobs: they
could use the toilets whenever they wanted,
working inside meant shelter from rain, snow and wind
- and the SS officers didn't actually want
to hang out here, so they weren't bothered by them

If you ever have the opportunity, you should definitely make the trip to visit the Auschwitz camps.

I almost felt like it was my duty as a world citizen - especially when Norway is only a couple of hours away by plane.

Reading and watching documents about the Holocaust is one thing, but to be walking the grounds and touching the walls of the Auschwitz camps is truly an unique experience.

It was gut-wrenching and heart-aching. At the end of the day, my sister said she felt like she had been to a funeral - pretty emotionally drained.

 I hope to go there again some day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Loving Poland

 Frida enjoying the view from her throne

 She's got this crazed look on her face
all day err day

  Picnic in the park

 .. with mom and Veronika

 Mom getting the sudden need to demonstrate the
heimlich maneuver on my sister
- you never know when it'll come in handy!

Veronika and I had planned to go on a sister trip to Poland for a couple of days.

When we were helping our dad moving house in the beginning of summer, she mentioned that she wanted to go and visit Auschwitz, the concentration camp where one and a half million people where viciously killed by the Nazis during the second world war.

In Norway it is pretty common for school trips to visit Auschwitz to be organized in either junior or senior high school, but for some reason neither me, nor my sister got the chance to participate in a trip like this.

Anyway, I think it's much better to go to a place like this on your own terms, when your mature enough and fully motivated, so that you'll be able to fully appreciate the experience.

So, at the ages of namely 18 and 24, my sister and I went to Poland, first and foremost to visit Auschwitz.

I think the tour to Auschwitz deserves its own blog post, so this will be about our trip to Poland in general!

  At the airport
in Norway

 Veronika enjoying
the food that we packed
- buying food at the airport is 
hella expensive

This was our first time in Poland, and we stayed in the city called Cracow, as it is near Auschwitz.

We had booked a room at a hostel that had gotten good reviews on Tripadvisor, called Mosquito Hostel.

 A private room with twin beds
and a private bathroom
(approximately 400 NOK per night)

The hostel seemed very popular, and it was fully booked during our stay. The staff were young and outgoing, and the environment at the hostel was very social and friendly: free dinner being cooked every day and different free activities being arranged to encourage socializing among the guests.

Every night one of the staff would take a group of any of the guests who wanted to go out and have fun out to town and show them different pubs and clubs.

 Too bad Veronika and I were
staying there for such a short time,
or else I would have joined in
on the fun

But for the two days,
we kept mostly to ourselves

They probably thought we
were good Christian girls, or something

 The place appeared clean and new,
and the atmosphere was homey and friendly
- if I was a backpacker I would
easily stay at one of their
6- or 8-bed dorms



 Breakfast included

 Of course I wanted to try some traditional
Polish food 
 Pierogi - dumplings, first boiled and then fried,
stuffed with various fillings,
such as sauerkraut, ground meat
and cheese

Now that I've had it once - from a restaurant recommended 
by a local - I don't need to try it again.
 Veronika was so happy
about being in Cracow..

 .. she suddenly grew a mustache:

 As proper tourists,
we joined the free walking tour
to the Jewish quarter in Cracow
 Me, the tourist, touring

 A tree

During the tour, we came across the best part of the trip (if you don't count the life-altering trip to Auschwitz, that is), oh gosh, this is going to sound so shallow.

We came across a Yankee Candle store!! (My sister did not share my enthusiasm)

People who know me pretty well also know that I live vicariously through YouTube. And whatever the YouTube Beauty Gurus rave about - I want.

I've always wanted to go to a Yankee Candle store in person and religiously smell every god damn candle in the store. For hours.

 Sadly, we came across the shop on a Sunday,
so it was closed..

and all I could do was window shop

 Come on!! A candle that smells like "A child's wish"??
Who wouldn't want that?!
(How the hell does "A child's wish" smell like,

Rest assured, I dragged my sister back there the next day!

 Oh, the experience!!
You'd never be able to order
the candles online just based
off of their names and what you'd think you'd like
- you have to smell them in person

A candle that is called something you
imagined you'd like, smells completely
and the candle you never would consider
based off of the name
- you end up liking the most!


 Yankee candle: White Gardenia, Sugared Apple and
Snow in Love

 Riding a Polish death-trap: a golf cart

 My sister,
caught with her hand in
the coo.. candy box

(please notice how her face nearly
matches the orange wall
- seemingly she's going for
the umpalumpa-esque 
makeup look)

 Scrumptious Italian food:
pizza with anchovies and olives
and gnocchi with a mushroom sauce

We couldn't finish it all,
and brought nearly an entire pizza back 
to our room

 Veronika taking a self portrait
when I was in the shower

- I've never been served
a pint with a straw before:
I even got TWO straws

I bet it was because I was wearing a dress.

Too bad I still didn't behave very ladylike:
ungraciously burping like a truck driver 

 A Mike Tyson approved energy drink

Then, we came across a rose bush that I wanted to take a photo with. 

But how to you pose with a rose bush?


 I really loved Cracow:
such a beautiful city
with so much to see
- and it did help that the
weather was superb

 Sad-looking nun, clutching her cross pendant 
Wonder what's bothering her